CALGARY, AB -- After spending seven seasons trying to help the Anaheim Ducks win the Stanley Cup, the opportunity to eliminate the Ducks from the Western Conference Second Round is an intriguing prospect for Calgary Flames goaltender Jonas Hiller.
"I can't deny that it's definitely something special," Hiller said with a bit of a grin. "It's going to be different than playing any other team. At the same time, you have to prepare yourself to play as well as you can and hopefully win as many games as possible.
Goalie - CGY
GAA: 2.20 | Sv%: .931
"It's almost like going back to somewhere where you felt at home. You've been away and you come back and it's going to be a different situation, but certain things are going to feel really familiar. Knowing a lot of people in hockey and outside of hockey there, I think that makes it a little special. I don't know if it's different emotion or anything, but it will be different than playing any other team."
Prior to arriving in Calgary in July after signing a two-year, $4.5 million contract, Hiller was a mainstay with the Ducks, spending all of his 326 NHL games in Anaheim's net. He was the Ducks' No. 1 goaltender until the emergence of Frederik Andersen, who the Flames will likely see in Game 1, and John Gibson in the latter half of last season.
Because of Andersen and Gibson, Hiller, 33, was allowed to leave Anaheim via free agency last summer. The Flames, looking to stabilize their net presence, quickly signed the veteran goalie.
Hiller might have struggled with the idea of facing his former teammates in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but it's the reality he faces and welcomes.
"At that point I don't think you looked that far ahead, but the expectations weren't the same," said Hiller, who was 1-2-0 with a 3.43 goals-against average and .889 save percentage in four regular-season appearances against the Ducks.
"In Anaheim, you knew you had a team that could play for the top spot. In Calgary you had the goal to make the playoffs and we knew that would be hard. Now you make the playoffs and you get through the first round and you're in the second round. It's been a great year so far and I've enjoyed where we're at. I think everyone in the room wants to keep going and is not satisfied yet."
Splitting time primarily with Karri Ramo, Hiller was 26-19-4 with a 2.36 GAA and .918 save percentage in his first season with the Flames. He earned the starting role in Calgary's first-round win against the Vancouver Canucks, but was pulled after allowing two goals on three shots in a wild Game 6 that saw Calgary earn a series-clinching 7-4 win. He finished the series 3-2 with a 2.20 GAA and .931 save percentage, and was named the starter against Anaheim.
Game 1 is Thursday at Honda Center (8:00 PM MT; NBCSN, Sportsnet, TVA Sports)
"[Hiller] deserves to start," said Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau, who gave him six of a possible 13 starts in the postseason last year. "He played great the whole first round of the playoffs and we know he can be great.
"And I got to believe he wants to beat us very badly, just like most guys want to beat the other team when they're traded from one team or not signed or whatever. He'd be a tough task to beat. He's a good goalie."
He'll try to prove it against his former boss.
Not that he'll admit it.
"I don't know," Hiller said. "At this point, we're in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, I don't know if you need extra motivation to play your former team. Sure, you want to do as good as you can and possibly beat them, but I don't think it has anything to do with my former team. I think it's more about moving on in the playoffs.
"At the end you want to win, but it's part of the hockey business that sometimes things separate or go different ways. I had a great seven years in Anaheim and they gave me a chance to be the No. 1, so that's something I will always thankful for.
"I don't need extra motivation to prove them wrong. I think at the end, there were decisions made. Sometimes you can influence them, sometimes a little less. At the end, I'm really happy how it turned out. Otherwise I couldn't have lived through what we have been through with this team in Calgary this season, which has been a great story, great fun and hopefully we can keep it going."
Author: Aaron Vickers | NHL.com Correspondent